Stephen King’s A Good Marriage (2014) Review

agm1Stephen King’s A Good Marriage (2014)

Director: Peter Askin

Starring: Joan Allen, Anthony LaPaglia, Stephen Lang, Cara Buono.

Based on a short story by Stephen King.

UK DVD Release 20th April 2015 from Spirit Entertainment

“She knew nothing.”

Darcy Anderson (Allen) discovers her husband Bob (LaPaglia) has a dark secret that shakes her to the core, bringing into question twenty five years of marriage that from the outside looks blissful. This is the most synopsis that can be given without getting into spoilers. Most of which can be guessed at by the movie poster. However it’s not the “what” that is important, but the “what next”. A Good Marriage begins with what would normally be the climax and builds the tension off the character’s emotions.

A Good Marriage is also a closer relation to King’s more literary and dramatic works, like Dolores Claiborne. In fact it’s almost a sister film to that movie, giving the characters impossible choices and delving into their psyches.

Joan Allen, is, as always, impeccable. Her performance is nuanced, her character Darcy sympathetic and fraying as her life and marriage crumble around her. Anthony LaPaglia’s perky Bob runs counterpoint to his wife, creating a perverse satire of happy domesticity.

agm2Despite all the high points, and they are many and high, A Good Marriage misses the mark by mere inches. It’s very much a domestic drama a la Stephen King, but it’s territory that has been covered many a time before. Gore hounds are also advised to look elsewhere, this simply isn’t that kind of film. Stephen Lang’s character Holt is completely wasted, coming in at the very end for no real reason other than to enact one final scene with Joan Allen. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great scene. But had Holt been IN the movie that last scene would have had amazing emotional resonance.

After getting off to a bang A Good Marriage slows during a long middle, the best portion of which is Darcy trying to decide what to do without losing her mind. But It’s still a long slow burn to the ending of which there are three. Just when it should be over, it keeps going. Then just as the penultimate scene ends there is yet more. And each of the three are oddly rushed. The movie also feels small. It feels like a really good movie-of-the-week and it’s no wonder it didn’t really get wide release.

This is also a good thriller that you can recommend to your parents without shame. Whether that’s good or bad depends on you and your parents. As a character study though there is a lot to love and King completionists should enjoy it.

agm3Kudos for: Joan Allen, because Joan Allen.

Final lesson: Don’t leave passive aggressive notes in your wife’s candy stash.

7/10

Dario Argento’s Dracula (2012) DVD Review

DRACULA 001Dario Argento’s DRACULA (2012) DVD

Directed By: Dario Argento

Written By: Dario Argento, Enrique Cerezo, Stefano Piani, Antonio Tentori

Starring: Asia Argento, Thomas Kretschmann, Marta Gastini, Rutger Hauer

UK Certification: 18

RRP: £12.99

Running Time: 105 minutes

Distributor: Spirit Entertainment

UK Release Date: 29th September 2014

Mentioning Dario Argento’s output in the 21st century elicits a kind of gnarly reaction of repulsion that you’d expect if you told someone you just defecated on their lawn. Leaving the overlooked Sleepless (2001) out of the equation, Argento’s quartet of misfires that took in The Card Player (2004), Do You Like Hitchcock? (2005), Mother of Tears (2007) and Giallo (2009) are quite a saddening fall from his peak for the man that is undoubtedly the master of Italian genre cinema – just slightly ahead of Bava and a short length in front of Fulci.

It’s a weary heart that sees me rip the shrink-wrap off his latest directorial outing – Dracula. Taking two years to find a home in the UK home entertainment market, it’s taking its bow with a very muffled fanfare. Indeed, an absence of press awareness was picked up on over the various social media forums coupled with Crazy Ralph-esque warnings from those that have seen it. It couldn’t be that bad could it? Argento? The man who gave us Profondo Rosso (1975) and Suspiria (1977)! No, it was much much worse…

BiellaArgento’s Dracula announces itself in an inauspicious manner as we’re faced with a dimly lit CGI laden tracking shot that transports us into Transylvania where we’re introduced to Tania (Miriam Giovanelli), who is about to head for a salacious tryst with her lover Milos (Christian Burruano). As Tania makes her way home from her rendezvous she discovers she is the prey of a sinister shadowy figure, and despite her best efforts to get to safety she’s caught and brutally murdered.

Meanwhile, in another part of the village, Jonathan Harker arrives at the behest of Count Dracula to engage in some employment for the local nobleman. Arriving at Dracula’s castle, he’s welcomed in by none other than Tania who seems to be displaying little of the side effects usually associated with being dead. Harker’s arrival certainly ignites a raw passion in her, and we’re left under no illusion that her new found obsession will struggle to fend off her advances. On hand to interject for now is the brooding figure of Count Dracula, but as Harker records in his diary that evening – there is a sinister air to this Transylvanian locale.

With a clunker such as this, I often find myself trying desperately to eke out a few redeeming features in order to offer some hope for the more hardened genre lover amongst us. Here though, it’s a desperate situation as there are precious few positives in what must surely be the nadir of Argento’s illustrious career. The most pervading annoyance is simply the cheap artificiality of the whole feature – from the opening, to the CGI train station, to the transformations, to the 3D obsessed moments of distraction. With this in mind it’s hard for the film to create an air of quality as this aspect stains the vibe of the picture and prevents it from establishing any real Argento-esque credibility.

DRACULA 003Dracula’s international cast do the film few favours either, with at times a very staccato – almost phonetic delivery “it felt like a nightmare. But I was not asleep” and so forth. Indeed there are moments when you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d accidentally loaded Mel Brooks’ Dracula: Dead & Loving It (1995) into your DVD player such are the caricatures that litter the movie. The thing is, the ingredients were there – with long time cohorts Claudio Simonetti, Luciano Tovoli and Sergio Stivaletti casting their eyes over the music, cinematography and SFX respectively, things shouldn’t really seem as desperate as they appear.

Maybe as a generic half a million dollar budgeted Bulgarian lensed production with a peppering of b-listers, the cause to be so critical may not have been so overwhelming. This though, with its budget ten times that and shot in Italy should demand a higher level of production value. Most importantly – it’s a Dario Argento movie, and even as the Italian master enters his 75th year, the task of critically assassinating another of his features gets no easier, and hopefully for all our sakes the notion of another new Argento movie never materialises.

2 out of 10

Extras:
Theatrical Trailer